Loyalist given evidence over killings of Catholic workmen

Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea in court over the deaths of John Devine and John O’Hara

A loyalist charged in connection with two murders appeared in a Belfast court on Tuesday to receive the alleged evidence against him, after police gained access to an interview he gave to Boston College researchers.

A loyalist charged in connection with two murders appeared in a Belfast court on Tuesday to receive the alleged evidence against him, after police gained access to an interview he gave to Boston College researchers.

 

A veteran loyalist charged in connection with two murders appeared in a Belfast court on Tuesday to receive the alleged evidence against him.

Winston “Winkie” Rea was handed files prepared by the prosecution over the separate paramilitary killings of Catholic workmen John Devine and John O’Hara more than 25 years ago.

Mr Rea (66), of Springwell Crescent, Groomsport, Co Down, arrived into Belfast Magistrates’ Court in a wheelchair.

He had been ordered to attend the court amid wrangling over documents in the case.

In total, he faces 12 charges, including conspiracy to murder and aiding and abetting in murder.

He is also accused of weapons offences, membership of the outlawed Red Hand Commando terror group, and conspiring in a threat to kill Billy Wright.

On Tuesday, defence barrister Tom McCreanor confirmed: “The papers have been served this morning on Mr Rea.

“We are now in receipt of those papers and would require some time to consider the contents and references to any exhibits.”

Mr Rea was charged in June last year by detectives from the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch.

He denies the allegations.

The renewed inquiry came after police won a legal battle to gain access to interviews he gave to Boston College researchers doing a project on the Northern Ireland conflict.

Mr Devine (37) was shot dead at his home on Fallswater Street in west Belfast on July 23rd, 1989.

He was sitting in his living room with his 13-year-old son when gunmen forced their way in and killed him.

Mr O’Hara, a 41-year-old taxi driver, was murdered at Dunluce Avenue in the south of the city on April 17th, 1991.

He was en route to pick up a passenger when two masked men approached his car and fired several shots at it, fatally injuring him.

Charges

Mr Rea is charged with conspiring in the killings of the two men, rather than with actually carrying out the murders.

Other alleged offences cover a period from the attempted murder of an unknown male on Belfast’s Falls Road between July 1971 and February 1973, to the conspiracy to threaten Wright in August 1996.

Attempts to hold a preliminary inquiry in the case have been delayed, amid claims that defence lawyers were refusing to sign an undertaking about the handling of American documents in the case.

However, the prosecution is now understood to have revised the papers.

Judge Fiona Bagnall listed the case for a further review in May, when any challenge to the strength of the evidence will be set out.